From:   Doug Singsen <>
Sent time:   Thursday, November 10, 2011 12:21:04 PM
Subject:   SPAM-MED: Re: [september17discuss] Open Letter to the Occupy Movement

I agree with the statement Lisa forwarded 100%. Below are excerpts from an article about the day of action in Oakland, where a mass CD that successfully shut down the Port of Oakland was overshadowed in media coverage by an unsuccessful attempted occupation of an abandonedbuilding organized by a small, secretive group without mass support. There are lots of lessons here for how OWS should be organizing to expand into abandoned buildings. For over a month there have been reports and rumors of multiple affinity groups planning to expand into buildings (as well as other parks), but so far nothing has come of it. As we get closer to winter, I would suggest that we need to begin organizing for a building occupation openly rather than in small, secret groups. As the Oakland events show, the only way we can succeed is by attracting mass support.

There is a legitimate concern about making the location and time of a building occupation public because then the police could just lock the building and surround the entrance with riot police. I think we need a combination public/secret method, where people democratically and openly decide on their goals and tactics, pick a time and location for a rally, and mobilize people, while a smaller group of trusted organizers picks a building to take over near the rally and occupies the building while the rally is going on, and the organizers then lead the rally to the building to support, defend and join the occupation.

Some excerpts (follow the link for the whole article):

IN THE aftermath of the Oakland general strike on November 2, a debate over tactics has emerged among supporters of the Occupy struggle. The discussion centers on the late-night attempt by a relatively small group of self-described anarchists to occupy a building that formerly housed the Traveler's Aid Society, a homeless advocacy organization closed by city budget cuts.

During the day, with tens of thousands of people participating in protests around the city--including a late-afternoon march to the docks and mass demonstration that shut down the massive Port of Oakland--the Oakland Police Department and Alameda County Sheriff's Office were powerless to intervene.

But when the Traveler's building was occupied, the cops moved in, displaying the same brutal and unjustified force they did a week before in their attempt to disperse Occupy Oakland, causing a near-fatal injury to Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen. The police operation against the Travelers' occupation resulted in more than 80 arrests and dozens of people injured. Another Iraq war veteran suffered severe injuries at the hands of police--he ended up in the hospital for emergency surgery to repair a ruptured spleen.


One anonymous statement on an anarchist website, for example, justified spray-painting the word "strike" across an Oakland Whole Foods by referring to the food store chain's undeniably anti-union, pro-gentrification management. "[I]t is a corporation like any other and failed to close for the general strike," read the statement. "Thus, smashy smashy."

One can still feel contempt for Whole Foods owner John Mackey while disagreeing with "smashy smashy" as a tactic to confront corporate greed. The authors show their ignorance about the most elementary notions of workers' action and the process through which Whole Foods employees can actually win a union. Instead of relying on the actions of Whole Foods workers themselves, these anarchists imagine that spray-painting five letters on the outside wall will contribute to the effort.

Ironically, the tagged Whole Foods was the very location where activists organized a flash mob parody to protest Mackey's outspoken stance against national health care. This action united employees, community activists and Whole Foods shoppers against management.


The march and picket of the port was the most radical action of the day. It was the most powerful. And to those who think that any criticism of the later building occupation comes from activists who want to restrict protest to legal actions, the port demonstrations defied the law in any number of ways--only with thousands of people, which made it impossible for the police to attack.

The port march and picket showed in concrete terms how mass, direct, democratically organized action can not just protest, but succeed.

Rather than seeking to build support for using these mass tactics for their proposal for the Traveler's occupation, the organizers of the late-night action made three crucial mistakes.

First, they substituted conspiratorial methods in place of democratic decision-making. Thus, while they invoked the authority of the General Assembly to justify their actions, they didn't participate in the decision-making process of that body, and simply attempted to impose their fait accompli on everyone else.

Second, they naively underestimated the danger of the police. As they write in their statement, "the ferocity of the police response surprised us." This statement is almost too incredible to believe. Either it signals a failure to understand the nature of the forces of the state, or it is a disingenuous, after-the-fact admission that the occupiers put hundreds of people in danger without preparing them in the least.

What did they expect the police to do? Especially since they planned their action for late at night, after 90 or 95 percent of the participants in the day's demonstrations had left the downtown? The police couldn't have asked for a better situation in which they could take revenge for their humiliations earlier in the day.

Third, the Travelers' occupiers sought to replace the power of mass unity with the supposed heroism of an elite.

On Thu, Nov 10, 2011 at 9:37 AM, Bruce Wagner <> wrote:
Check out our interview with Lisa Fithian.   It's great.

The Occupy Wall Street Show – Episode 004 – Lisa Fithian

Only Love,


Bruce Wagner
OnlyOneTV | global television network
+1 646-580-0022

On Thu, Nov 10, 2011 at 9:24 AM, Lisa Fithian <> wrote:
> Here's the open letter from Alliance of Community Trainers, my training
> collective, about issues of nonviolence and tactics.  Please spread it
> around widely.  To comment or endorse, go www.trainersalliance.organd its
> also on my blog,, love Starhawk
> Open Letter to the Occupy Movement: Why We Need Agreements
> From the Alliance of Community Trainers, ACT
> The Occupy movement has had enormous successes in the short time since
> September when activists took over a square near Wall Street. It has
> attracted hundreds of thousands of active participants, spawned occupations
> in cities and towns all over North America, changed the national dialogue
> and garnered enormous public support. It’s even, on occasion, gotten good
> press!
> Now we are wrestling with the question that arises again and again in
> movements for social justice—how to struggle. Do we embrace nonviolence, or
> a ‘diversity of tactics?’ If we are a nonviolent movement, how do we define
> nonviolence? Is breaking a window violent?
> We write as a trainers’ collective with decades of experience, from the
> anti-Vietnam protests of the sixties through the strictly nonviolent
> antinuclear blockades of the seventies, in feminist, environmental and
> anti-intervention movements and the global justice mobilizations of the late
> ‘90s and early ‘00s. We embrace many labels, including feminist,
> anti-racist, eco-feminist and anarchist. We have many times stood shoulder
> to shoulder with black blocs in the face of the riot cops, and we’ve been
> tear-gassed, stun-gunned, pepper sprayed, clubbed, and arrested,
> While we’ve participated in many actions organized with a diversity of
> tactics, we do not believe that framework is workable for the Occupy
> Movement. Setting aside questions of morality or definitions of ‘violence’
> and ‘nonviolence’ – for no two people define ‘violence’ in the same way – we
> ask the question:
> What framework can we organize in that will build on our strengths, allow us
> to grow, embrace a wide diversity of participants, and make a powerful
> impact on the world?
> ‘Diversity of tactics’ becomes an easy way to avoid wrestling with questions
> of strategy and accountability. It lets us off the hook from doing the hard
> work of debating our positions and coming to agreements about how we want to
> act together. It becomes a code for ‘anything goes,’ and makes it impossible
> for our movements to hold anyone accountable for their actions.
> The Occupy movement includes people from a broad diversity of backgrounds,
> life experiences and political philosophies. Some of us want to reform the
> system and some of us want to tear it down and replace it with something
> better. Our one great point of agreement is our call for transparency and
> accountability. We stand against the corrupt institutions that broker power
> behind closed doors. We call to account the financial manipulators that have
> bilked billions out of the poor and the middle classes.
> Just as we call for accountability and transparency, we ourselves must be
> accountable and transparent. Some tactics are incompatible with those goals,
> even if in other situations they might be useful, honorable or appropriate.
> We can’t be transparent behind masks. We can’t be accountable for actions we
> run away from. We can’t maintain the security culture necessary for planning
> and carrying out attacks on property and also maintain the openness that can
> continue to invite in a true diversity of new people. We can’t make
> alliances with groups from impacted communities, such as immigrants, if we
> can’t make agreements about what tactics we will employ in any given action.
> The framework that might best serve the Occupy movement is one of strategic
> nonviolent direct action. Within that framework, Occupy groups would make
> clear agreements about which tactics to use for a given action. This frame
> is strategic—it makes no moral judgments about whether or not violence is
> ever appropriate, it does not demand we commit ourselves to a lifetime of
> Gandhian pacifism, but it says, ‘This is how we agree to act together at
> this time.’ It is active, not passive. It seeks to create a dilemma for the
> opposition, and to dramatize the difference between our values and theirs.
> Strategic nonviolent direct action has powerful advantages:
> We make agreements about what types of action we will take, and hold one
> another accountable for keeping them. Making agreements is empowering. If I
> know what to expect in an action, I can make a choice about whether or not
> to participate. While we can never know nor control how the police will
> react, we can make choices about what types of action we stand behind
> personally and are willing to answer for. We don’t place unwilling people in
> the position of being held responsible for acts they did not commit and do
> not support.
> In the process of coming to agreements, we listen to each other’s differing
> viewpoints. We don’t avoid disagreements within our group, but learn to
> debate freely, passionately, and respectfully.
> We organize openly, without fear, because we stand behind our actions. We
> may break laws in service to the higher laws of conscience. We don’t seek
> punishment nor admit the right of the system to punish us, but we face the
> potential consequences for our actions with courage and pride.
> Because we organize openly, we can invite new people into our movement and
> it can continue to grow. As soon as we institute a security culture in the
> midst of a mass movement, the movement begins to close in upon itself and to
> shrink.
> Holding to a framework of nonviolent direct action does not make us ‘safe.’
> We can’t control what the police do and they need no direct provocation to
> attack us. But it does let us make clear decisions about what kinds of
> actions we put ourselves at risk for.
> Nonviolent direct action creates dilemmas for the opposition, and clearly
> dramatizes the difference between the corrupt values of the system and the
> values we stand for. Their institutions enshrine greed while we give away
> food, offer shelter, treat each person with generosity. They silence dissent
> while we value every voice. They employ violence to maintain their system
> while we counter it with the sheer courage of our presence.
> Lack of agreements privileges the young over the old, the loud voices over
> the soft, the fast over the slow, the able-bodied over those with
> disabilities, the citizen over the immigrant, white folks over people of
> color, those who can do damage and flee the scene over those who are left to
> face the consequences.
> Lack of agreements and lack of accountability leaves us wide open to
> provocateurs and agents. Not everyone who wears a mask or breaks a window is
> a provocateur. Many people clearly believe that property damage is a strong
> way to challenge the system. And masks have an honorable history from the
> anti-fascist movement in Germany and the Zapatista movement in Mexico, who
> said “We wear our masks to be seen.”
> But a mask and a lack of clear expectations create a perfect opening for
> those who do not have the best interests of the movement at heart, for
> agents and provocateurs who can never be held to account. As well, the fear
> of provocateurs itself sows suspicion and undercuts our ability to openly
> organize and grow.
> A framework of strategic nonviolent direct action makes it easy to reject
> provocation. We know what we’ve agreed to—and anyone urging other courses of
> action can be reminded of those agreements or rejected.
> We hold one another accountable not by force or control, ours or the
> systems, but by the power of our united opinion and our willingness to stand
> behind, speak for, and act to defend our agreements.
> A framework of strategic nonviolent direct action agreements allows us to
> continue to invite in new people, and to let them make clear choices about
> what kinds of tactics and actions they are asked to support.
> There’s plenty of room in this struggle for a diversity of movements and a
> diversity of organizing and actions. Some may choose strict Gandhian
> nonviolence, others may choose fight-back resistance. But for the Occupy
> movement, strategic nonviolent direct action is a framework that will allow
> us to grow in diversity and power.
> From the Alliance of Community Trainers, ACT
> Starhawk
> Lisa Fithian
> Lauren Ross (or Juniper)
> ____________________________________________________________
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